Hope Springs (2012) review

Every now and then, in its own conservative way, Hollywood tries something a bit radical. This comedy-drama about sexagenarian sexy times marks one of those instances.

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play a couple in late-middle age with a traditional marriage; he goes out to work with a briefcase every day, she’s a homemaker with a part-time job.

They haven’t had sex for years.

While Arnold (Jones) is reluctant to confront their dwindling intimacy, a miserable Kay (Streep) checks them both into an intensive therapy retreat, hoping Dr Feld (Steve Carell) can save their marriage.

Carell’s casting as a therapist might conjure memories of Billy Crystal’s turn in Analyze This , but Hope Springs has a far more earnest interest in the truth of failing relationships.

While a large portion of the film takes place in Dr Feld’s office, much like a real therapist Carell’s character functions not as comic relief, but as a sounding board for his patients to bounce off.

This does put the onus on the two leads, and befitting actors of their calibre and experience, Jones and Streep effortlessly deliver. Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated have already repackaged the romcom formula for an older market, but this has bigger ambitions.

If you feel uncomfortable watching Margaret Thatcher discuss BJs with MIB’s Agent K, you’re not alone – at one point Jones himself goes a hard-to-fake shade of tomato-soup red – but overcoming embarrassment is sort of the point.

The 2008 German film Cloud 9 caused a stir with its explicit depiction of senior sex. If you prefer your ageist taboos not busted exactly, but gently toasted and served with a nice cup of Horlicks, you’ll like Hope Springs a lot more.

Fine turns from Streep and Jones bedrock this compassionate, quietly subversive drama.

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